Check out the most interesting tours to do in São Luís, the capital of Maranhão and gateway to the famous Lençóis Maranhenses

The history of the Ludovica capital is already a great reason to visit the destination by itself: São Luís It is one of the few Brazilian cities that was influenced by different peoples during its development.

The city was the only one in Brazil founded by the French, invaded by the Dutch and finally colonized by the Portuguese. This mixture of cultures left an important architectural ensemble with more than 4 thousand colonial mansions, most of them tiled, which highlight the historic center of the city as one of the most important in the country.

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The exact location in an area of transition between the North and Northeast regions, highlights surprising landscapes very different from what we are used to finding in other regions of the world. North East. São Luís it is surrounded by mangroves, rivers, forests, dune fields and has an extensive coastline with greenish waters. These beauties can be seen in different parts of the city – especially Praça Maria Aragão, with a privileged view of São Marcos Bay, and the municipality of Raposa, which houses the so-called “Fronhas Maranhenses”.

A visit to the museums dedicated to the history and culture of Maranhão can be a great opportunity to learn a little more about the customs and traditions of the destination. The gastronomy based on seafood and spices from the interior of the state, can be seen in the great options of restaurants that São Luís offers. Check a list of tours to do in São Luísdiscover the cultural diversity and beauties of the capital of Maranhão.

Tour in the historic center

Photo: Embratur

The historic center of São Luís brings together more than 4 thousand tiled colonial properties, which form an interesting neighborhood, formed by narrow streets, alleys, alleys and imposing mansions, built in the 18th and 19th century.

The area was recognized by Unesco as a Cultural Heritage of Humanity and concentrates interesting attractions of the Ludovica capital, such as the Casa de Nhozinho museum, on Rua Portugal, and the Palácio dos Leões, seat of the Maranhão government.

Sunset on the Spire

Photo: Embratur

Located in the most upscale and modern area of the city, Espigão Costeiro de São Luís is at the beginning of the Ponta d'Areia Peninsula boardwalk, close to Lagoa da Jansen. The huge stone corridor that meets the sea, allows a panoramic view of the coast, the Bay of São Marcos and the historic center of the city, yielding great photos to take as a souvenir.

During the sunset, tourists and city residents go to the place to contemplate the phenomenon, walk along the waterfront and enjoy the fair that takes place daily, with options for snacks and rental of equipment, such as bicycles and skates.

Hit back Fronhas Maranhenses

Photo: Disclosure

Few tourists who arrive in the capital of Ludovica have information about Fronhas Maranhenses, a small demonstration of the grandeur of Lençóis Maranhenses very close to the center of São Luís.

The small set of dunes located in the municipality of Raposa, 28 km from São Luís, attracts tourists looking for a different tour of the destination. Baptized as “Fronhas Maranhenses” the small territory covered by dunes is accessible on a fun boat trip, which departs from the city's port.

The tour lasts 4 hours and offers two other stops: the first for a relaxing mangrove bath and the other to taste the oysters created in the destination.

Visit the city of Alcantara

Photo: Embratur

The charming colonial city of Alcântara is a good choice for those looking for a cultural and historical tour in the capital of Maranhão. To reach the destination it is necessary to take a boat (or catamaran) from the city's port, located on Av Beira Mar, in the Praia Grande neighborhood. The crossing lasts 1 hour and the boats leave twice a day.

Alcântara houses an important and well-preserved architectural complex. Tourists can also get to know the beaches near the city, and those who choose to spend a night in the destination can still check out the wonderful flock of guarás-rosa, during the sunset.

Discover the typical cuisine at the kiosks on Av Litorânea

Photo: Embratur

Super organized and with standardized kiosks that run along the entire shore, Av Litorânea runs through the two main urban beaches of São Luís: Praia de São Marcos and Praia do Calhau, both with great structure and several options of bars and restaurants. The tip is to get to know the typical dishes of the coast of the state and try delicacies such as arroz de cuxá, fish from Maranhão and crab toc-toc.

Discover São José de Ribamar

Photo: Nelson Weber / Wikimedia Commons

São José de Ribamar is one of the four municipalities that make up the island of Upaon Açu. The city is 40 km from the capital of Maranhão and is home to one of the most important religious sanctuaries in the Northeast.

The complex is formed by the Igreja Matriz de São José de Ribamar, Pastoral Center, Parish Hall, Casa dos Milagres, Praça São José, Acoustic Shell, Crypt (under the Shell), Grotto of Nossa Senhora de Lourdes and statue of São José. In addition, the city has beautiful beaches.

Take a walk in Lagoa da Jansen

Photo: Embratur

Lagoa da Jansen is located in the prime area of São Luís and concentrates most of the city's bars, restaurants and nightclubs. There are options for all tastes and budgets.

The area also offers a great space for leisure with sports courts, skate parks, bike paths and some kiosks.

Batista's Bar

Photo: Disclosure

Known only among Ludovicans, Bar do Batista is a classic in the historic center of São Luís. Installed inside a colonial mansion, the bar offers more than a hundred options of artisanal cachaças, including cupuaçu, cashew, ginger and guava, produced by the owner of the bar.

The bar is very rustic and frequented by locals and some tourists who pass through Rua Travessa da Lapa (near Convento das Mercês), in the Desterro neighborhood.

Tour of the city's museums

Photo: Douglas Junior / Mtur

The history of the reggae capital is relived in more than 11 spaces dedicated to preserving the culture and past of São Luís. In Reviver (Historical Center) are installed some of the most important museums in the city, such as the Museum of Sacred Art, the Casa do Tambor de Crioula, with a permanent exhibition of items related to the cultural manifestation, and the Vale Maranhão Cultural Center, located at Av. Henrique Leal.

Spend a night in the historic center

Photo: Embratur

The region concentrates great options of bars, restaurants and nightclubs very popular among the residents of the city, yielding great night tours. The concentration of establishments are around Rua Portugal, Praça Nauro Machado and Fonte do Ribeirão.

Guided tour of the Palace of the Lions

Photo: Embratur

The headquarters of the state government is located in a building listed by UNESCO and has approximately a collection of more than a thousand pieces, which show a little of the past of the capital of Maranhão. Among the pieces are French porcelain, paintings, objects and furniture from the 16th to the 20th century.
The space is open for visitation from Tuesday to Sunday and has free admission.

Presentation Bumba Meu Boi (month of June)

Photo: Embratur

The month of June is marked by the main cultural festival in the state. In Maranhão, the June festivities are celebrated to the sound of maracas, drums, zabumbas and cuícas, which lead the attractive performances of Boi Bumba in the capital and inland cities.

Points of the city such as the Historic Center, Lagoa da Jansen and Praça Gonçalves Dias, serve as a stage for revelers and curious people who accompany the dozens of performances available for free on every weekend of the month.

Cabana do Sol restaurant

Photo: Disclosure

The Cabana do Sol restaurant is certainly one of the best in São Luís and offers typical dishes from Maranhão cuisine. The main highlight of the house is the sun-dried meat accompanied by cassava, paçoca and baião de dois (which can also be replaced by cuxá rice). To work up an appetite, order a portion of pastel with pepper jelly and a Jesus guarana, the famous pink soda, made in the state.

The Cabana do Sol Restaurant has two units in the city: one in the São Marcos neighborhood and another in front of Praia do Calhau, on Av Litorânea.

Fair at Praça Benedito Leite

The fair brings together handicrafts, typical foods, spices from the state and promotes music and dance performances in the afternoon. The event takes place every Sunday at Benedito Leite square, next to the Sé Church.

Mestre Amaral's Creole Drum

Photo: Embratur

Mestre Amaral's cultural space is very popular among young people, artists and dance sympathizers of African origin. Full of colors produced by xita salts, the Tambor de Creole is a joyful dance guided by drums, percussion and singing dedicated to São Benedito.

The space is next to the Palácio dos Leões, in the historic center of the city.

city beaches

Photo: Embratur

Forget those beaches that resemble Caribbean landscapes that are very common in the catalogs of tourism agencies that promote tourism in the Northeast. In this part of the country, the coast is brushed by the dark waters coming from the rivers, streams and mangroves that surround São Luís, but this fact does not interfere in anything when it comes to natural beauty.

The beaches of São Marcos and Litorânea are the most popular in the city and offer the best tourist infrastructure, but there are many other options. If you have enough time in the capital of Maranhão, be sure to visit the beaches of Araçagi, Olho d'Água, Ponta Verde, Mangue Seco, Panaquatira and Caúra, in São José de Ribamar.

Get to know the work of lacemakers in the municipality of Raposa

Photo: Douglas Junior / Mtur

Passed from generation to generation, the art of bobbin lace is a striking feature of the city of Raposa, 30 km from São Luís. Rua da Lavanderia concentrates most of the small shops selling handcrafted products made by women in the community.

Watch a performance at the Arthur Azevedo Theater

Photo: Douglas Junior / Mtur

The second oldest theater in Brazil, the Arthur Azevedo Theater opened in the early 19th century, at the height of the cotton cycle. The theater is the stage for national performances and offers a varied annual program and is located on Rua do Sol. With neoclassical architecture and baroque details, the theater has a well-preserved facade and a noble hall with boxes and more than 700 seats.

Senac School Restaurant

Photo: Embratur

The Escola Restaurant has become a reference in Maranhão for the quality of its teaching and is open to the public daily at lunchtime. All dishes are made by students accompanied by teachers and can be eaten à la carte or buffet. A great opportunity to taste typical dishes of the state.

Praia Grande Market

Photo: Disclosure

Located in the heart of the historic center of São Luís, the Praia Grande Market is the ideal place to find spices from the state. In addition to shops with food, fruits and typical sweets from Maranhão, the Market also has some rustic bars where you can order a table and cool off with a cold beer from the intense heat of the northeast.

Discover the city's churches

Photo: Embratur

Among the most imposing buildings on the colonial streets of the old area of the city, the churches are the ones that stand out the most and it is worth setting aside a little time on the agenda to see them in person. The Igreja da Sé is the largest of all and was built in 1690. The building still has an installation to the side dedicated to the incredible collection of the Museu de Arte Sacra de São Luís.

Other important and scenic basilicas are the Church of Santana, Church of Santo Antônio, Church of São João Batista, Church of São Pantaleão, Church of Desterro, Church of Rosário and Church of Remédios.

San Marcos Bay

Photo: Embratur

The boat trip through São Marcos Bay is a new attraction in the city and super interesting to do. Lasting 3 hours, the tour offers a special panorama of the historic center and a tour close to the mangroves that surround the city.

Watch the city's incredible tidal variation

Photo: Disclosure

Maranhão has one of the largest tidal variations in the world, especially in São Marcos Bay, where it shares the old center with the newer part of the city.

It is possible to observe the incredible phenomenon daily and make a personal comparison of the driest and fullest moment of the tide table, which can vary up to 8 meters in depth.

Reggae at Nelson's Bar

Enjoying a “quarry reggae” is an experience that cannot be left out on a visit to the national capital of Jamaican rhythm in Brazil. Open to the public for over 30 years, Bar do Nelson is a traditional place for young people and fans of the musical style.

The rustic (and very simple) space is located in front of Praia do Calhau and promotes parties every weekend.

» Places to visit in Sao Luis
» Itinerary: 5 days in São Luís and Lençóis Maranhenses
» Complete Guide to Lençóis Maranhenses
» Best time to visit Lençóis Maranhenses

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